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Research Review

Daily Use of Marijuana Among Noncollege Young Adults at All-Time High

2017 drug use data shows clear differences in substance use trends between college age adults and their noncollege peers.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) announced that the latest Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey results on substance use trends as teens transition to adulthood are now available online, comparing substance use patterns of full-time college students to their noncollege peers. Most notably, more than 13% of young adults not in college report daily, or near daily, marijuana use; alcohol use is more common among college students; some opioid use is declining in both groups; and the most sizeable difference is the higher rate of cigarette smoking in the noncollege group.

Below are the highlights from the 2017 MTF survey results on drug use among college students compared with their peers not attending college (ages 19–22).

• Daily, or near daily, marijuana use among noncollege young adults has continued to rise, reaching its highest level (13.2%). As a result, daily, or near daily, marijuana use is now nearly three times as high among noncollege young adults as among college students.

• For the first time, questions about vaping marijuana, were added to the survey in 2017. Past month use appears to be higher among noncollege young adults than among college students (7.8% vs. 5.2%).

• With respect to past month use, alcohol use in college students is higher than in noncollege peers (62% vs. 56.4%). Additionally, mixing alcohol with energy drinks appears to be higher among college students than the noncollege group (31.5% vs. 26.7%) in the past year.

• The largest difference between annual, past month, and daily use in rates for college vs. noncollege groups is for smoking cigarettes. Daily smoking for noncollege peers is higher than college students (14.4% vs. 2%). Past month use of vaping nicotine appears to be higher for noncollege young adults compared with college students (7.9% vs. 6%).

• Past year misuse of Vicodin in both college and noncollege peers dropped dramatically since 2009 (8.4% in 2009 to 1.1% in 2017 and 11.2% to 1.8%, respectively).

• Synthetic drug use over the last year is lower in college students than in noncollege peers. Synthetic cannabinoids (K2/spice) use is 0.5% vs. 2.4% and synthetic cathinones (bath salts) is 0.2% vs. 1.5%, respectively.

Additional data and an infographic can be found on NIDA's College-Age & Young Adults webpage, which also includes links to statistics and trends, a list of more than 400 college programs in addiction science, information about the Addiction Medicine Subspecialty, and other relevant materials, including a college-age specific toolkit for those holding events during National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week early next year (January 22–27, 2019).

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse